You can probably find your story in a group that has been cruelly maligned or blasphemously scapegoated this past year. Revenge is a dish best served with ballots.
I’m a recipient of birthright citizenship.
My father was born in Iran, one of the countries that survived Trump’s Muslim ban 2.0.
My mother’s family fled what was then Prussia following the war, and narrowly avoided the returning soldiers who burned down her grandparents’ village and everyone in it. My mom was a refugee for a spell, though I don’t remember her ever using the term.
America was generous to them and, by extension, to me. The people I grew up around, the kids at school, my teachers, no one batted an eye at my mutt heritage. Sure, there were garbled pronunciations. Sure, attending high school was like attending a four-year roast with a thousand Don Rickles; but I also learned from the Jesuit priests that faith is not a secret you carry in your heart. It’s an act you bestow upon the most vulnerable. If you don’t, if you choose to hoard your cosmic luck and turn your back on those in need, well, God have mercy on the frauds who bask in his name.
I didn’t share their faith, but I respected their philosophy. And I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Being alive in the 21st century will do that to you.
I’m writing this on Election Day. By the time you read this, we may or may not know how these midterms have shaken out. Whether they proved to be that clichéd referendum on the president’s hard-line agenda, an endorsement of his vindictive white-man tribalism or a defeated, lazy shrug at a ginned-up game most Americans don’t want to play.
It’s understandable, not voting. But it’s no longer excusable—if it ever was.
I am the son of immigrants and refugees. And I bet, without thinking all that hard, you can find your story in a group that has been cruelly maligned or blasphemously scapegoated this past year. It shouldn’t be hard. Wannabe strongmen paint with buckshot. But real strength comes in finding yourself in the other—and acting accordingly.